Flying London to Rome return with British Airways during COVID-19
London Heathrow Airport
Fairly long queues at bag-drop and there is a minimal focus on enforcing any social distancing, and there are not many floor markings or signage to encourage this from the airline or the airport.
Staff check passports at the end of the line, and this involves physically taking the document. This is done again 1-minute later by another member of staff after a temperature check. Given all we read about the contactless travel experience it is most disappointing.
Bag-drop is self-serve and easy but there is no obvious sanitisation of the screens – hand sanitiser is back towards the queuing area so customers must backtrack here. None of the BA branded hand sanitiser points tested work during this experience.
The adapted boarding experience works quite well and prevents any queuing in the airbridge. However, it is a further disappointment that BA gate staff again handle both the passport and mobile boarding pass. The member of staff also has the PPE mask hanging loose from one ear (maybe not a legal requirement but staff should be leading by example in the airport). Again, the hand sanitiser after the boarding counter does not work.
Onboard – Heathrow to Rome FCO | A320 | Euro Traveller
Newer A320 with latest product including USB and WiFi – however, despite being fairly priced for the flight duration, the WiFi does not work for the entire flight, and therefore a potential loss of valuable income.
The staff welcome is positive and customers are given a hygiene pack with a wipe and hand sanitiser sachet.
The initial visual impression of cabin presentation is quite strong and certainly carpets and seat covers are free of debris and appear fresh. The seat area is ATP tested which includes the tray table and armrest. The tray table reading suggests the cleaning technique or products are suboptimal.
The window side armrest reading indicates the armrest was not cleaned and not been sanitised for some time.
The inflight service delivery is efficient and polite, and while we understand this is a temporary measure – the return of appropriate and complimentary F&B in Euro Traveller is most welcome and meeting a good standard. Staff are sensible in the collection of litter and this means that there is not too much unnecessary cabin presence, but items are neither left too long. While there is a short period of the flight where 3 or 4 crew are congregated in the rear galley having a personal conversation, the general feeling is that staff behaviour is safe and conforming to appropriate social distancing.
Washrooms are fairly grubby on inspection and one might expect more active monitoring given the reduced duties. There is no hand sanitiser and it is unclear if the soap is antibacterial.
Advice regarding face mask use in Rome Airport is welcome and it is excellent that the airline can provide customers with medical PPE masks – however, it seems that the information being given by BA may be slightly inaccurate as we understand that any type of face covering is permitted in Italy.
The collection of arrival forms is again efficient and politely completed. The purser provides a good representation of BA standards with excellent and personal PA content. The staggered deplaning process is slow but prevents queues.
Rome Fiumicino Airport
As this is a busy flight the allocation of two check-in counters is inadequate and Economy Class queues are reported at 40-minutes with minimal social distancing observed.
The Club Europe counter has a short waiting time and the bag drop process is efficient – staff service is polite and efficient.
There is no lounge available for this flight and this is not explained by the check-in staff. Neither is this limitation prominently explained during the in-app upgrade process, so some customers may feel misled on receiving this information. It is neither explained that Club Europe passengers may use fast-track security, and similarly, given the large changes to terminal infrastructure in FCO airport, check-in staff could explain the gate location and shuttle train system.
Boarding is by row and Club Europe seem to have priority, but this is not announced over the PA. While the mobile boarding pass scan is contactless in Rome, staff still take the passport for identity checks, and this does seem unnecessary when the photo page can be adequately shown by most customers.
Onboard – Rome FCO to Heathrow | A319 | Club Europe
In Business Class, hygiene kits are delivered personally – rather than at the aircraft door. Given there is a delay to this service and many passengers have been seated for 10 to 15-minutes it may be a customer preference to have a means of wiping down the table and seat area, so these should be given at the aircraft door.
The cabin is unfortunately visibly grubby with crumbs on the console space and seat base. While the crew announce over the PA that the cabin has been cleaned the ATP test readings for the tray table and central console suggest otherwise. At best the cleaning is ineffective in technique or product, but the debris suggests it was not completed. There are also large items of litter in the seat pocket from the previous flight, further supporting this notion.
The bar service has a good full service selection and is delivered with a packet of nuts. All bar service material is plastic tumblers – there is no plastic stem glass for wines which would be a small visual upgrade. The staff deliver an excellent and responsive service here and there are frequent refills.
The meal comprises a DO+CO branded lunchbox with a choice of chicken and coleslaw sandwich or beetroot hummus – the quality is excellent, as is the small couscous salad and the chocolate mousse is divine.
While it is not the hot entree that one would normally receive, it is a decent compromise. However, it feels like BA could expand the choice to give a cold salad or cold entrée, so this better represents BA’s usual standards.
The staff excel on this flight, with attentive service and despite the full cabin, do manage to address all customers by name. As one expects at these times there is not an abundance of personal contact, but the crew try and it is an undeniably friendly experience despite everything going on at BA, and the industry in general.
There is good information regarding the arrivals process at LHR, and staff give a thorough explanation of the process and reconfirm the need for contact tracing details to be prepared before entry is permitted to the UK.
Priority baggage did not come out first, and one can see from the tags, that this is very scattered for this flight, and well and truly mixed in with Economy Class bags.
This flight report is based on fully paid tickets, not airline discounted or complimentary tickets.